All quiet on the western front, shoppers keep away
By Fareeha Qayoom
esterday afternoon, my sister dragged me all over the place – the Y market Departmental stores and specialty shops (DHA) – Chen One (last week of sale), Al-Fatah (we had to buy a few essentials), Potpourri and HKB (to compare prices) and Stylo (for fun).
Chen One – it was quiet. There were not a lot of shoppers around. My sister wanted to compare Gul Ahmed’s sale prices with Chen One’s. Chen One’s sale prices were way too high when compared to Ideas by Gul Ahmed. For example, the down-filled pillows were around PKR 600-700 on sale. (Gul Ahmed’s were around PKR 540). The bath towels on sale were around PKR 780 or something like that. The apparel and shoes department was kind of worthless too. We didn’t even do a quick browse.
Stylo – most sandals and flat flip-flops cost around PKR 780-1050 now. (I didn’t even look at the heeled variety of shoes, so sorry, don’t know their current price range). The product is way over-priced. When these items used to be sold for PKR 200-400, women used to flock over to stock up their shoes. However, since they have increased their prices, the traffic has become none-existent. There were only two women browsing the shop when we dropped by. Since Stylo has not upgraded the quality of their product, there is no reason to buy an item worth PKR 200-400 at PKR 780-1050, especially, when you will throw it out after wearing it a few times for one season because the sole is worn out or straps are broken or something like that. You might as well buy imports (fake or branded) for that kind of pricing. At least, the shoe quality and design is way better for the same price.
Potpourri – we only browsed the toiletries section – we were looking for a moderately priced face wash. The shelf had not been dusted for quite a while however, the sales person was confident that all their products were fresh and there was no danger of expiry. Apparently, the sales were brisk. Hmm. The price range was somewhere between PKR 250-500.
HKB – the ground floor has been redone – Cross Roads, Ego, accessories like jewelry, bags, shoes, hair aids galore. We had a quick browse before moving to the first floor – our usual haunt. It had been redone as well. We browsed the crockery, flatware and kitchen appliances section – unfortunately, nothing caught our eye. The tea sets and loose plates all had boring designs. However, these are cheaper than Al-Fatah. You can find loads of items under 3-5k here. At Al-Fatah, this section is very expensive (a single china dinner plate costs around PKR 195 or more per unit); however there are hardly any unique designs on offer. We even visited the basement in our search of toiletries. A few items we checked were more costly than Al-Fatah and some had the same prices.
Al-Fatah – it was crowded as usual. There were loads of people shopping at the place. My backpack was again a problem even though it had been scanned. However, the sales person at the counter told the security person to back off and stop harassing me – I liked that. We picked up a few essentials, like groceries and toiletries and even bought a few items on impulse. Things have become more expensive or at least, they feel more expensive compared to their Liberty flagship store. We are thinking of dropping by again at the place to compare prices with their DHA branch. I think, the prices for DHA have been slightly jacked up, however, it could be my wishful thinking as well since price hikes are the norm, not an exception. It all depends on the dollar price (against the Pak Rupee) anyway, which varies almost daily. Gone are the days when dollar was holding steady against Pak Rupee at 60. Now, it’s somewhere around PKR 84.40-85.
Bottom line, we found the retail therapy kind of stressful instead of a fun exercise. Fitting the staples (and the usual) in a budget is an exercise in futility. We always come back frustrated and all cleaned out! Loads of money spent and only single digit items to show for it. After a couple of months, prices of all goods and services will be jacked up some more yet again, 15 percent (VAT) to be exact, this will be on top of the current prices of goods and services, so make hay while the sun shines. Thank God for small mercies. Enjoy the respite. ■